Associated Press

Three Things to Know: Steve Kerr turns time-out coaching over to players for night

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Steve Kerr engages players by letting them run huddles, draw up plays vs. Suns. I first noticed it during a first-quarter timeout: Warriors coach Steve Kerr handed the whiteboard where he draws up plays over to Andre Iguodala, then stayed out of the huddle. The players ran the show, with Iguodala in the coach’s chair.

It continued all night as Draymond Green,, David West, Stephen Curry and others took turns “coaching” the team during breaks in play. Kerr had the night off and front-row seats for the game, although he did not order a beer from the waitress working his section.

The reasoning behind the move was simple — Kerr has said repeatedly over the years this is the players’ team. Not his as coach, not the GM’s, not the owner’s, the team belongs to the players, and he needed them more focused than they had been.

It seemed to work as the engaged Warriors blew out the Suns 129-83. Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Omri Casspi (who started for Green due to a sprained finger) added 19 points. The Warriors shot 58.4 percent to the Suns’ 34.7 percent.

Kerr isn’t the first coach to pull this trick — Gregg Popovich did something a couple of weeks ago. It’s a long grind of an NBA season, the Warriors will be focused during the playoffs, but Kerr needs to keep their attention during the season. Little moves like this work.

Was this disrespectful toward the Suns? Maybe. I’m sure some Suns players and their fans thought so. But this is the NBA not U6 AYSO soccer — if you don’t like something, play better and make them pay for it. Otherwise it’s on you.

2) Zach LaVine makes the play — steal and game-winning dunk for Chicago.
Let’s set the stage: It’s a tie game, 101-101, with 15.2 seconds and Orlando about to inbound the ball at midcourt after a timeout, the Magic looking to steal a win or the road.

Jonathan Simmons attempted to inbound the ball with a bounce-pass to Shelvin Mack as the veteran guard broke out toward center court — but the athletic LaVine picked his pocket, raced down the court and threw down the game-winning dunk.

The Bulls have won 2-of-3 after their seven-game losing streak.

3) Jazz beat Spurs on the second night of a back-to-back, win streak reaches 10. Donovan Mitchell is a stud. Like should be leading your Rookie of the Year balloting stud. Like future (and maybe current) cornerstone player in Utah stud.

Like the guy who takes over a game late vs. San Antonio and leads Utah to its 10th straight win stud. Mitchell had 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and sparked the Jazz win.

Everything is coming together for Utah. Rudy Gobert is healthy and the defense is elite again. Jae Crowder, acquired from Cleveland at the trade deadline, had 14 points off the bench and played well. Joe Ingles continued his run of fantastic play and had 20 points. Derrick Favors is playing better next to Gobert — something that has not always happened — and he had 19 points. Utah is getting it done with great teamwork at both ends.

Utah now sits 1.5 games back of New Orleans for the eighth and final playoff slot in the West. Two games separate six-seed Portland and 10-seed Utah — anyone in that group can get in with a strong last 25 games (or so). Utah should feel good — Cleaning the Glass sees them as the ultimate sixth seed, and fivethirtyeight.com says the team now has an 89 percent chance of making the playoffs. Doing that with all the injuries this team has had should earn coach Quin Snyder some Coach of the Year consideration.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.